Over the last few years we’ve seen several projects that convert Nintendo’s Wii into a handheld console by way of a “trimming”, wherein the system’s motherboard is literally cut down to a fraction of its original size. This is made possible due to the fact that the majority of the console’s critical components were physically arranged in a tight grouping on the PCB. While it might not be the smallest one we’ve ever seen, the Wii SPii by [StonedEdge] is certainly in the running for the most technically impressive.
It took [StonedEdge] the better part of a year to go from the first early 3D printed case concepts to the fully functional device, but we’d say it was certainly time well spent. The general look of the portable is strongly inspired by Nintendo’s own GameBoy Advance SP, albeit with additional buttons and control sticks. In terms of software, the system is not only able to run Wii and Gamecube game ISOs stored on its SD card, but also several decades worth of classic titles through the various console emulators available for the system.
The Wii SPii makes use of a particularly difficult variation of the Wii miniaturization concept known as the OMEGA trim, and is supported by a custom PCB that’s responsible for things like power management and audio output. As it was never designed to be particularly energy efficient, the trimmed Wii motherboard will deplete the system’s dual 18650 cells in about two and a half hours, but at least you’ll be able to get charged back up quickly thanks to USB-C PD support. All of the hardware just fits inside the custom designed case, which was CNC milled from acrylic and then sandblasted to achieve that gorgeous frosted look.
[StonedEdge] says the Wii SPii was inspired by the work of accomplished smallerizer [GMan], and even uses some of the open source code he developed for the audio and power management systems. In fact, given its lengthy list of acknowledgements, this project could even be considered something of a community affair. Just a few years after we marveled at a functional Wii being crammed into an Altoids tin, it’s truly inspiring to see what this dedicated group of console modders has been able to accomplish by working together.
When Nintendo officially ended production of the 3DS in September 2020, it wasn’t exactly a surprise. For one thing, some variation of the handheld system had been on the market since 2011. Which is not to say the product line had become stagnant: the system received a considerable mid-generation refresh, and there was even a more affordable variant introduced that dropped the eponymous stereoscopic 3D effect, but nearly a decade is still a fairly long life in the gaming industry. Of course Nintendo’s focus on the Switch, a hybrid device that blurs the line between console and handheld games, undoubtedly played a part in the decision to retire what could effectively be seen as a competing product.
While putting the 3DS out to pasture might have been the logical business move, a quick check on eBay seems to tell a different story. Whether it’s COVID keeping people indoors and increasing the demand for at-home entertainment, or the incredible library of classic and modern games the system has access to, the fact is that a used 3DS in good condition is worth more today than it was when it was brand new on the shelf this time last year.
In short, this was the worst possible time for me to decide that I finally wanted to buy a 3DS. Then one day I noticed the average price for a Japanese model was far lower than that of its American counterpart. I knew the hardware was identical, but could the firmware be changed?
An evening’s worth of research told me the swap was indeed possible, but inadvisable due to the difficulty and potential for unexpected behavior. Of course, that’s never stopped me before.
So after waiting the better part of a month for my mint condition 3DS to arrive from the land of the rising sun, I set out to explore the wide and wonderful world of Nintendo 3DS hacking.
It might be difficult to imagine in our modern HDMI Utopia, but there was a time when game consoles required proprietary cables to connect up to your TV. We’re not just talking about early machines like the NES either, turn of the millennium consoles like the PlayStation 2, Gamecube, and the original Xbox all had weirdo A/V ports on the back that were useless without the proper adapter.
But thanks to the efforts of [Taylor Burley], you can now upgrade your Slim PS2 with integrated HDMI capability. It’s not even a terribly difficult modification, as these things go. Sure there’s a lot of soldering involved to run from the console’s A/V connector to the commercially-made HDMI dongle he’s hidden inside the case, but at least it’s straightforward work.
As [Taylor] shows in the video after the break, all you have to do is remove the proprietary connector from the HDMI adapter dongle, and wire it directly into the console’s A/V port with a bit of ribbon cable. There are only 8 pins in the connector that you need to worry about, and the spacing is generous enough that there’s no problem getting in there with your iron and some standard jumper wires. You’ve also got to pull 5 V from the board to power the adapter, but that’s easy enough thanks to the system’s nearby USB ports.
There’s a perfect spot to mount the adapter board next to the console’s Ethernet connector, and once that’s tacked down with a bit of adhesive, the only thing left to do is cut a hole in the back of the enclosure for the HDMI port and snip away a bit of the metal RF shield. Presumably the same modification could be done on the original “fat” PS2, though you’ll be on your own for finding a suitable place to mount the board.
Many of the games released on the Nintendo 64 have aged remarkably well, in fact a number of them are still considered must-play experiences to this day. But the years have not been so kind to the system’s signature controller. While the N64 arguably defined the console first person shooter (FPS) genre with games like “Goldeneye” and “Perfect Dark”, a modern gamer trying to play these classics with the preposterous combination of analog and digital inputs offered by the N64 controller is unlikely to get very far.
Of course, you could play N64 games in an emulator and use whatever controller you wish. But where’s the challenge in taking the easy way out? [Ryzee119] would much rather take the insanely complex route, and has recently completed work on an add-on board that let’s you use Xbox 360 wireless controllers on Nintendo’s 1996 console. He’s currently prepping schematics and firmware for public release, with the hope that support for additional USB controllers can be added by the community.
Nintendo historians may recall that the N64’s controllers had an expansion port on the bottom where you would connect such accessories as the “Rumble Pak” and “Controller Pak”. The former being an optional force feedback device, and the latter a rather oddly named memory card for early N64 games which didn’t feature cartridge saves. Only “90’s Kids” will recall the struggle of using the “Rumble Pak” when a game required the “Controller Pak” to save progress.
Thankfully [Ryzee119] has solved that problem by adding battery backed storage to his adapter along with some clever code which emulates the “Controller Pak”. Similarly, the “Rumble Pak” is emulated by the Xbox 360 controller’s built-in force feedback and a bit of software trickery. Specific button combinations allow for enabling and disabling the various virtual accessories on the fly.
But the best part of this modification might be how unobtrusive the whole thing is. Not only does it allow you to still use the original controllers and accessories if you wish, but it only requires soldering a handful of wires to the console’s motherboard. Thanks to the surprising amount of dead space inside the system’s case, it’s not even a challenge to fit the board inside. You do need to use the official USB Xbox 360 controller receiver, but even here [Ryzee119] opted to put a USB port on the board so you could just plug the thing in rather than having to cut the connector off and trying to solder it to the board yourself.
[lovablechevy], aka the Queen of Bondo, has added another member to her Mushroom family of custom portable consoles. This time, it’s the HandyGen, an improved Sega Nomad. As an owner of the latter, we can attest that the Nomad had limitations, including its unwieldy size and shape, and its godawful battery life. As part of a build-off contest over at the Bacman forums , [lovablechevy] took apart a half-working Nomad and trimmed its board to fit into a smaller case of her own design, while retaining features such as the A/V out, headphone jack, and Player 2 controller port. She also bumped up the size of the screen, swapping in a new 4″ LCD and its corresponding controller board. The best improvement was increasing the battery life considerably; HandyGen uses 2 LiPo batteries lasting 7 hours instead of the Nomad needing 6AA’s that barely lasted two. HandyGen’s battery life is roughly double that of the GeneBoy, an earlier portable Genesis mod we’ve featured before.
[lovablechevy] always does a great job with her portables, from the Nintenduo to the HandyNES. Being avid PS fans, we also award her bonus points for testing out the HandyGen with Phantasy Star 4. Check out her video of the HandyGen after the break.
Grab your favorite cartridge and violently blow into the end, because [Dave Nunez] is sending us on a nostalgia trip with his 3D printed portable NES. He takes the typical route of chopping up a Nintendo on a chip (NOAC) retro machine rather than sacrifice a real NES, and opts for a NiMH battery over lithium (which isn’t a bad idea; they canburst into flames if you charge them incorrectly). The battery life is, however, tolerable: 2.5 to 3 hours.
All the components are packed into a custom-made 3D printed PLA enclosure, which [Dave] kindly shares on thingiverse. He also decided to 3D print each of the buttons and their bezels/housings, which he then topped off by cutting acrylic sheets that seal up the front and back. As a final touch, [Dave] slips in some custom art under the acrylic and mounts a printed LED nameplate in the corner.
[Callan Brown] wrote in to show us a really interesting NES audio hack. [Callen] decided that he wanted the full Castlevania III audio experience, which (without modifications) can only be had through the original Japanese Famicom console. [Callen] weighed a few adapter options, and instead decided to come up with his own.
The issue is that the Japanese Famicom and the American NES actually have a different cartridge connector. The change in hardware from a 60 pin to a 72 pin connector added “features” like the 10 pins connected directly to the expansion port (used for stuff like the teleplay modem, who knew). The other two additional pins are used by the annoying 10NES lockout chip. While they were at it, Nintendo decided to route the audio path through the expansion connector instead of the cartridge.
This means that the Japanese cartridges can’t pipe sound to the NES audio channel with just a pin adapter. Good news though, after sourcing a pin adapter hidden inside certain NES games (Stack Up, Gyromite), audio can easily just be pulled from the adapter PCB. This requires the more expensive Famicom Castlevania III cartridge (Akumajou Densetsu). To cleanly route the new audio cable out of his front loading NES [Callan] reuses the sacrificial adapter game’s cart to make some kind of unholy hybrid. To round it off [Callan] also goes over steps to flash a translated ROM to the Japanese game.
What difference could an extra two squares and a sawtooth make? Check out the sound comparison video after the jump! Thanks [Callan].